Two weeks ago, after more than two months, it was finally time. I got to take a break and go on vacation. Enough of the ants, the bush babies, the elephants, enough the bush. What, I am sure you are wondering, would I do with my vacation time? Easy. Get out of camp as quickly as possible so that I could go straight on a safari.
I followed my American nose out west and chased the sun along Nomad's beast retreat. First stop was Chada in Katavi National Park, and then I continued to Greystoke Mahale in Mahale Mountains National Park.
Mahale was great. I reunited with Claus and Jill (former Sand Rivers managers) and met a wonderful group of people including quite a few Tanzanian residents. The chimps were a blast and the weather was, er, adventurous. There is definitely something to be said for jungle hikes in torrential rain. I also have to say that as much as I love my spot on the rufiji, I think Mahale ranks as the most beautiful all around camp in the Nomad portfolio.
But it is Chada that I will return to the first chance I get. Managers Kristen and Mark were wonderful and the wildlife is equal to the Serengeti without any of the tourist masses; on every game drive save one over four days, I saw at least two different prides of lions. I'm thrilled that it has flown under the radar for so long but I fear that it is a secret that can't be kept for much longer. The park is an ideal blend of miombo and open plains and wetlands, a spectacular setting for safaris.
I really have to tip my hat to Mark, Kristen, and all of the Chada staff because while I complain about elephants, theirs put mine to shame. To truly understand it, check out Mark and Kristen's latest diary entry. I had my own encounters with Katavi elephants, one of which resulted in a layer of dust over every inch of my tent after a couple of calves and their mothers played in the sand outside. You can't get less than a meter away from elephant calves without it being a memorable occasion.
I hope to get back out there when it turns green, and maybe persuade Mark to organize an expedition into the deep south of the park, but for now I'm thrilled to be back in the Selous. Mark likes to tease the Selous team about us not having any animals, but after one of the best weeks of wildlife viewing since I arrived in the selous, I would like to know how many leopards, wild dogs, and buffalo-lion battles his guests have seen in the last seven days.
Oh, and by the way, when I came back from my vacation the ants were still in by shower and bats had taken up residence under my bed. Feels good to be home.